Written by Samuel Baggenstos, Wild Arizona’s Conservation Associate

Yellow fall Aspens Photograph by: Sam Baggenstos

Yellow aspens and joyful faces. That’s what stuck in my mind as I trailed behind a line of volunteers making their slow way down the crest trail in the Chiricahuas. Overloaded backpacks shifted back and forth as calves flexed and glistened in the afternoon sun. Not much was said as we approached Round Park, over half way in our journey to Cima Cabin. All attention was on the aspens that covered the mountain side in a blaze of yellow. All logistics and stresses for that evening dropped from my mind as I silently contemplated both the bright colors and happy hikers in front of me.

Volunteers working hard clearing logs. Photograph by: Samuel Baggenstos

From October 12th to 16th, two groups of volunteers put in over two hundred hours of work on the Greenhouse Trail in the middle of the Chiricahua Wilderness. Over the course of two separate volunteer events, we cleared 3.1 miles of trail, built or serviced 9 drains, and cut or removed 19 logs. 

The first event (October 12th) was a day outing that focused on the lower end of the Greenhouse Trail. The majority of the volunteers were from the Portal Hiking Club, a group that has been hiking once a week in the Chiricahuas for many, many years. The trail surface (also called “tread”) was in decent shape so we focused mainly on cutting back the vegetation that had begun to grow across the trail. It was lovely to see water flowing in various places in Greenhouse Creek. The Chiricahuas still boast abundant life even after a somewhat disappointing monsoon. After clearing 0.7 miles of trail, we back towards Cave Creek and ultimately to Sky Islands Grill and Grocery, where one of the volunteers treated some of us to dinner.

Cima Cabin was built in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corp. Photograph by: Samuel Baggenstos

The second event (October 13th to 16th) was a four day, three night event that focused on the upper end of the Greenhouse Trail. The six of us met up at Rustler Park on Friday and caravanned up the rough road that ends near Long Park. From there we hiked up the Long Park Trail, along the crest to Cima Park/Saddle and down to Cima Cabin. The outhouse, cabin, hunting stove, and large cast iron stove provided a luxury experience atypical of many backcountry trips. 

Over the next three days, we did a variety of trail maintenance activities, primarily focusing on re-benching thin or eroding tread, cutting back overhanging vegetation, and clearing logs that had fallen across the trail. The group of volunteers represented a variety of skills and experience levels. I greatly enjoyed both teaching re-treading fundamentals to the group and learning some tips and tricks about cross cutting from a particularly seasoned volunteer. 

Teamwork makes it all work. Photograph by: Samuel Baggenstos

Highlights of the backcountry trip included clearing dense vegetation around creek crossings, tackling some more challenging cross cut situations, and eating/making crunch wraps for dinner. Each volunteer crew member offered unique perspectives and opinions which made evenings around the campfire especially enjoyable. By the end of the trip we had cleared 1.4 miles of trail, some of which was a dense thicket of underbrush and logs.

I am looking forward to the next volunteer trip and all the fun and challenges it will bring.

Until next time, happy trails!

Samuel Baggenstos